Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Someone I Don't Know

The Tour is here. As Bob Roll used to say during the old Outdoor Life promos,

"It's the TOUR, Baby!"

When the tour is on, I tend to be distracted. I surf the web too much, watch TV too much, and generally let things go that shouldn't be let go.

Today, while I was supposed to be working, the distraction led me to Velonews, where I saw a link called "Ernie Gagnon - The Bike"

I thought "Ernie Gagnon, that's the local dude who shows up at all the cyclocross races, and weighs like 400 pounds".

Seriously, I'm not exaggerating at all. He's tall, and he's big. He rides a custom Seven with tandem wheels.

The Velonews article is here.

Of course, I followed the link. Turns out the guy was living in a self-imposed exile because he weighed 570 pounds. His doctor gave him the choice of surgery or death. He chose a bike instead.

Talk about thinking outside the box.

It's a good article. Inspiring. Poignant. It embarrassed me.

Not because of Ernie, but because of how I perceived and judged him. I haven't really met him, we passed casually at races. I remember he gave me a head nod. I remember because it isn't common to see a person that size at a bike race. I gave one back because it's the polite thing to do. What I didn't do was have an open mind. What I didn't do was consider the demons he was up against, and how he's taken them head on, and beating them. I didn't consider the emotional risk he was taking, essentially in surrounding himself with a bunch of skinny arrogant little bastards, like me. The irony here is that he was a target for bullies growing up because of his size, as was I (albeit the other end of the spectrum). Cycling helped me build self-confidence, due in no small part to the strength of the community. Cycling respected me for my efforts, my willingness to learn, and my contributions. Cycling didn’t dismiss me because I didn’t win races. Cycling rewarded me for becoming part of cycling. Now, cycling is doing the same for Ernie.

I'm proud that I'm a member of a community that accepts him, supports him, and gives him the most precious thing a person can have - friends that look beyond these carcasses we're all wrapped in. I'm embarrassed that I was so wrapped up in my own selfish little world, deluded that my problems are/were so grandiose, that I wasn't ready or willing to consider the bravery and strength of character Ernie is exemplifying. I'm embarrassed that I didn't remember those lessons I learned over 25 years ago.

I don't know what goals in particular Ernie has, but I hope he's willing to keep setting them higher as he meets them. I hope, instead of simply beating down the demons, he completely vanquishes them.

Ride well, Ernie.

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